To celebrate the start of the festive season, I decided to re-watch The Hebrew Hammer (2003), a seasonal “Jewsploitation” comedy starring Adam Goldberg as the eponymous private detective, who’s hired to save Hanukkah after Santa’s despotic son ‘Damien’ (Andy Dick) deposes his Dad, and vows to kick all non-Christian holidays off the calendar!
I know that many viewers (and critics alike) found this movie unfunny and/or offensive… and I have to admit to rolling my eyes and checking the clock myself, from time to time. The decision to pastiche “blaxploitation” flicks from the 1970s may have provided writer/director Jonathan Kesselman with rich-pickings for the soundtrack, but sadly he also chose to replicate/perpetuate the gender politics of that less enlightened era, meaning that the women here are all either scantily-clad arm-candy, or elderly grotesques. Even the hero’s love interest ‘Esther Bloomenbergensteinenthal’ (Judy Greer) is little more than a love-struck side-chick and easily-restrained damsel-in-distress… while vastly-over-qualified comedy ringers like Nora Dunn, Rachel Dratch and Elaine Hendrix are wasted in one-joke cameos. Tch!
Still, I can’t help feeling a certain fondness for this movie, if only for the novelty factor, and the fun performances. Goldberg is one of my fave comedy actors, and it’s great to see him hogging the spotlight in a starring role for a change… it’s just a shame that the loose reality level and low budget mean he doesn’t get to play a more active/adept action-hero… especially considering what great shape he was in at the time, and how badass he looked in his costume! Fun fact: Despite playing overtly Jewish characters here, neither Greer nor Goldberg are “100% Kosher”… Greer is a lapsed Catholic daughter of a former nun, while Goldberg is only Jewish on his father’s side, which doesn’t count according to orthodox dogma (his mother, like Greer, is a non-practicing Catholic).
While “researching” this post, I discovered that Kesselman is still trying to get a belated sequel off the ground, which would see his hero travelling back in time to duke it out with Adolf Hitler, alongside an “ass-kicking” Anne Frank! M’kay.
I also found this recent story on the Heeb magazine website, about an online store that was selling chocolate figurines of the Maccabees (heroes of the Hanukkah story), that turned out to be secret Santas in disguise! Oops!